Race War, Climate Crisis, Water and the Bible: Seeking Ancestral Help in Our Hour of Apocalypse

Sat 11:00am - 11:50am

Venue: Convo 10


Water in our time is “speaking.” It is demanding a new hearing—in the “Shouting Voice” of hurricanes and floods; in the “Withheld Voice” of droughts and wildfires; and in the “Peoples Voice” of a cry for access as shutoffs continue in Detroit, poisoning remains un-redressed in Flint, and war over such breaks out in Syria and elsewhere. Sobered by recent UN assessments that two-thirds of humankind will not have access to adequate water by 2025, this workshop examines the way this gift of the Creator is articulating a prophetic demand that Christians deeply repent the history of white supremacy and settler colonialism, work to undo the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (that licensed theft of native lands and waters) and re-examine the bible from the point of view of indigenous traditions in the Americas and back in Europe itself that knew how “to live in place” without plundering others or destroying their own watersheds. This presentation develops a Christian spirituality of water, whose leitmotif and baseline invoke indigenous modes of reading spirit into—and out of—natural environments. The presupposition here is that Christianity in modern form is already the step-child of a process of Euro-Asian disenchantment of natural forces more than 5,000 years in the making, and most particularly the offspring of white supremacist coloniality and modern industrial urbanity that have rendered this tradition so profoundly “docetic” as to be nearly irredeemable in its late response to climate change blowback and environmental apocalypse. But “nearly” is not the same as “completely.” Given the long historical sweep of imperial anthropocentrism, “encysting” elites of our species in ever-more totalizing envelopments of machinery (cities growing out of country sides in antiquity, Roman re-engineering of nature in service of a new comprehensiveness of infrastructure, modern industrial and digital innovations now pushing toward cyborg societies, etc.), the first step must be to ask what cultures do know something of nature and have codified its potencies in integral spiritualities? What can be learned from such and how might their insights and practices be reflected back inside a Christian tradition that has so often disparaged such lifeways? And of course, in elaborating an itinerary of “passing over (to the indigenous) and coming back,” the immediate demand is for justice: the need to recognize, own, and repair the damage done to native cultures here in this hemisphere, and indeed, the need to re-visit the suppression of “pagan” and Euro-indigenous practices back in the “Old World.” One of the major challenges of this approach has to do with what might be called a widespread indigenous valorization of bioregional enculturation, that in effect insists (riffing on Tip O”Neill,): “all spirituality is local.” In the presentation, I offer an experimental articulation of this posture by tracing my own four-decade long journey into a viable spirituality of “The Strait” (Détroit), centered in the last five years of struggle against water shutoffs, to open up new insights on the role and power of water in animating the social movements that became early Israel and later Christianity, and that pushes contemporary water activism to collate its politics with a deep water spirituality. My recent book, Political Spirituality for a Century of Water Wars: The Angel of the Jordan Meets the Trickster of Detroit provides backdrop for a more poetic oral riff and discussion.